Planning a “High End” Custom Home in Coronado
Here is a “check list” approach as to what one might expect to get in terms of planning/building/contracting a “high end” custom home in Coronado as of early 2014. This information is in fact a basic summary of a marketing brochure that I personally used back in 2008 when the Coronado market was very hot and when I project managed and constructed 6 or 7 high end homes here (average size 4000 square feet). The information has been updated for 2014.
What you get for about $100 per square foot on your own lot
- Site preparation (clearing/filling/grading) for optimal drainage and positioning of buildings including septic system all built to municipal standards. Some some lots may require an extra charge for leveling and fill.
- Standard seismic footings using 6” exterior block walls for more efficient cooling, better sound insulation, pipe and column concealment, overall structural strength, and better depth for window security bar installation.
- High quality cool roof constructed of extra hardened colonial clay tiles over zinc sheeting on a welded steel roof support structure with one meter (40″ overhang) with steel eaves troughs.
- All interior cement walls smoothed with cement and pasta for a “drywall” finish look and feel.
- All ceramic floors are high quality porcelain and include a standard 3-4″ wall edging for easy maintenance.
- All shower enclosures include 7 foot ceramic walls.
- Bathrooms include vanities with doors/drawers where space permits otherwise a high quality “pedestal sink” is installed.
- Interior ceilings are standard drywall at a 9′ 3″ height to accommodate ceiling fans and provide extra volume for coolness.
- Bathroom ceilings use green drywall for moisture resistance.
- Cathedral ceilings typically require an extra charge but are highly recommended.
- Exterior terrace and roof overhang areas all use “green” moisture resistant gypsum.
- Heavy gauge steel eaves troughs (not plastic) are used for all roof drainage purposes with in ground runoff pipes to the street.
- Attic areas and soffits are vented extensively to minimize heat build-up.
- Windows are typically custom made with aluminum or PVC frames, plate glass and screens and window openings are protected using steel security bars.
- Kitchen counters with back-splash are constructed using real granite as opposed to “Granito” which is a relatively inexpensive manufactured product that absorbs moisture.
- Kitchen cabinets, both uppers and lowers, are constructed using “cedro margo” which is a highly resistant wood recommended for the tropics and very similar to teak.
- Kitchen/bathroom fixtures are all “American Standard” or equivalent quality.
- The hot water system can be either instant electronic or propane gas.
- High quality Glidden “Peerless” paint, or the equivalent, is used inside and out as the final coat over a special cement or drywall “sealer” coat.
- Copper electric wire inside PVC tubing is used throughout although in many instances the main line from the outside meter to the house is aluminum. This is optional.
- The house is pre-wired for cable, telephone, audio and internet connections as desired.
Cost Allowances Based on Overall Square Footage
- This price would include 5 appliances ($3000), a water pressure system with reserve tank ($1000), porcelain floor ceramics ($20/M2 allowance), real granite kitchen counters $5000 allowance), window security bars, custom built-in closets with shelving, colonial style interior doors, steel exterior doors, basic light fixtures and/or basic ceiling fans with lights as appropriate (with dollar allowances).
- This was the average for a 4000 square foot, 3 bedroom, 2.5 bathroom home with approximately 25% overall square footage for terrace areas.
The client is responsible for design and financing.
- Construction is typically based on a “fixed price” as outlined in a “construction agreement” but could also be based on a cost plus formula or a fixed price per week for project management services.
- Completion time is typically 4 to 6 months for a medium to larger home (up to 400 M2 or 4000+ SF) with 20-25 workers on site until the roof is up (2-3 months) and a much smaller crew (perhaps 6-8 people) for the finishing stages.
- The builder/contractor should have a “limited power of attorney” letter to ensure that all required permits can be obtained in a timely manner.
- All construction is performed in a safe and workmanlike manner in accordance with local and Panamanian national building standards including payment of Social Security to all salaried workers.
- The builder is responsible for all on site worker supervision and the required paperwork/remissions to Social Security.
- The builder provides a one year guarantee on all construction work.
Crazy Season in Coronado
It is always the same!
Starting in August/September and rapidly gaining speed thereafter, new projects and businesses rush to complete construction before the “big tourist rush” in December.
This year, with the new Rio Hato International Airport expected to be functioning by December, there is an even greater urgency and sense of expectation than average. As a result there are many more and much larger projects/businesses currently in the final countdown stages.
In the relatively small town of Coronado, more than 1000 employees (most of whom are construction workers) pass through the security gates every day. Many of them work a six day week which is rather par for the course in Panama. The “Boulevard” in Coronado has become the latest area for new residential projects. Meanwhile new businesses keep popping up at a furious rate at the Coronado entrance and along the InterAmerican highway nearby.
One significant residential project inside Coronado on the Boulevard that has fascinated me (because of size and speed of development) is Punta Paraiso. Phase One of this relatively large project (for Coronado) has just been completed with about 100 townhouses all pre-sold. There are no “for sale” signs at the entrance.
Phase Two (a slightly larger phase than Phase One) has just completed a very significant leveling, drainage and roadway infrastructure phase. As of last week, house building started in earnest with rough plumbing sprouting up from perhaps 20 adjacent sites.
Interestingly, this project has decided to use a “poured wall” construction approach which is not yet very common in the Coronado area. This approach is optimal when a developer is constructing a large number of relatively similar or even identical units. It would appear that once everything is running smoothly (and the weather is cooperating which has not been the case recently) the complete walls for one house can be poured every single day. The following day the steel forms are stripped off and erected at the next site. The poured walls contain a heavy gauge steel mesh making these walls extremely sturdy. Of course all window openings and doorways are preset for perfect sizing and “squareness”. The poured wall approach solves most of the smoothing or parging problems associated with standard cement block construction (inside and outside). This is a production line approach of the first order ensuring increased quality control in my opinion although it required very good coordination. At this rate of production the last house should be poured sometime in early january with the roofing only a few days behind. (I will post additional information as this project develops.
There are many other new projects on the Boulevard including “Coronado Escapes”, Palmaras, and about 5 or 6 smaller projects including many new private residences. An interesting recent development is that several new “Coronado” projects (including Punta Paraiso) are actually building on Gorgona land outside the original Coronado boundaries. Access is still controlled through the Coronado security gates.
Land Price Trends
Unimproved beach front property in Coronado currently has an asking price ranging from $1000-$1700 per square meter (10.7 square feet equals one square meter). An unimproved lot across the street from the beach is generally priced at about 40-45% of the beach front lot opposite. Land further from the beach, inside Coronado, is sometimes available for as low as $60-$90 a square meter. An average interior lot in Coronado might be offered at $100 to $125 per square meter but with many exceptions to this broad generalization. Land inside the Coronado Golf Club or the Equestrian Club is typically double this average price. Continue reading
Construction costs over the past 5-6 years have increased but not as dramatically as have land values. A bag of cement in 2006 cost $4.50 whereas in 2013 it costs almost $10. The cost of a block of cement (4 inches) has almost doubled whereas the cost of a skilled construction worker has increased from approximately $22/$25 a day to about $30/$35 a day. As a general rule, construction materials consume about 60% of the building budget whereas about costs account for 40%. Continue reading
Project management is generally a major consideration for anyone planning to build/renovate in the Coronado area. There are many options. You can do it yourself which of course requires considerable personal time, a high degree of construction knowledge/ability and a good facility with the Spanish language. In this capacity will learn all about the intimate details of the Panamanian Social Security System, as well as the meaning (and extra cost) of “liquidacion” and “decimi”. Although you might know all about wood frame construction for North America you need to have a detailed knowledge of construction techniques for Panama which has absolutely nothing to do with “wood frame” techniques. Your knowledge should include the full range of materials available for each task, the unit costs of building materials, the major local suppliers of these materials, the average productivity of construction crews and how to stay on on top of “quality control” issues. Continue reading